With Banners Held High: how international support helped the miners in 1984-5

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An international aid effort saw millions of pounds raised to feed striking miners and their families during a year-long dispute over pit closures.

The huge humanitarian response to the hardship facing pit communities in 1984-5 was celebrated at a festival commemorating the international solidarity of the Miners’ Strike.

People at the With Banners Held High festival heard how the media largely ignored the support shown to miners from around the world and as far afield as Afghanistan and Japan.

But more than 30 years later the story was told at Saturday’s event at Unity Hall.

There was music, speeches, exhibitions and film screenings during the day-long festival, compered by writer and broadcaster Ian Clayton.

Speakers included Daniel Dernancourt, who was leader of the French miners’ union in 1984-5.

Mr Dernancourt described how a convoy of 30 truckloads of food and other aid travelled from France to the UK, coordinated by the Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT).

He said: “I had never before experienced such moments of fraternity, during which the CGT miners were full of admiration and friendship for their British comrades.”

A toy drive was also held to provide Christmas gifts for miners’ children.

Mr Dernancourt added: “Thousands of objects were taken to mining areas, where things were difficult for the strike movement and the atmosphere was tense.

“Miners’ wives organised the distribution of toys from the NUM offices so that Christmas would be a little less hard for the children.”

Support for the miners included shiploads of food from Denmark, a gift of 18,000Ibs of lamb from New Zealand and cash donations from all over the world.

And around 10,000 children were given holidays in Europe as part of the solidarity movement.

Speakers at the festival included Barbara Jackson, secretary of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign.

The action group is calling for a full inquiry into policing at the Orgreave coking plant, when police clashed with miners in a pivotal moment during the dispute.

Also speaking was former BBC industrial correspondent Nick Jones, Tosh McDonald, president of the rail union ASLEF and Tony Garnett, film producer of Kes, Cathy Come Home and The Price of Coal,

There were musical performances from Grace Petrie and American protest singer David Rovics, whose song Letter to my Landlord rages against rent rises and the exploitation of tenants.

The daytime festival was followed by a benefit gig headlined by singer Louise Distras and compered by performance poet and songwriter Attila the Stockbroker.

Also performing were musician and activist Joe Solo and Barnsley band The Hurriers.

Proceeds will be donated to Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Justice for Mineworkers and the Oaks Memorial Fund.